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Formula 1

Norris's self-criticism was entirely justified after 'amateur' slip

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Lando Norris may not have believed McLaren had the pace to win the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race, but he was right to admit that he “left the door open, like an amateur” because that denied him the chance to find out if it really was winnable.

He did so much right in launching an unexpected late move on the brakes on Max Verstappen at Turn 3. It was an outstanding pass, placing his car perfectly to compromise Verstappen’s exit.

That allowed him to pull ahead on the straight. At the point he pulled across the Red Bull driver’s bows after pulling clear, it looked like he had the move done because it would have been almost impossible for Verstappen to repass him on the outside into Turn 4, especially given he didn’t have DRS.

That’s why it was baffling to see Norris edge back in the direction of the racing line approaching Turn 4, giving Verstappen more than enough space to squeeze up the inside and retake the lead. To add insult to injury, it allowed team-mate Oscar Piastri to get ahead, with Norris sensibly backing out on the inside at Turn 6 to ensure there was no collision.

Lap six was Norris’s chance to get ahead and he did the hard part, but it was an elementary racecraft mistake that meant it didn’t pay off.

“Once things settle in too much, it’s difficult once the tyres get too hard, it’s difficult to do too much, so I had to make the most of my opportunity,” said Norris. “Then I messed it up and left the door open, like an amateur.”

There are times when criticism of Norris - both self-criticism and that coming from the outside - is overblown.

Often in the past, he has been conservative fighting with drivers in significantly faster cars because it would have compromised his own result to fight a futile battle, but now McLaren is able to fight for wins on pace he has shown he is perfectly willing to get stuck in. This, however, was a big error.

He had the move done, and it was brilliantly executed. There’s every chance he could have stayed at the front had he not given Verstappen, of all people, space. Instead, he had to settle for third place.

Norris’s self-criticism is a strength and it’s encouraging that he immediately realised he’d made a rookie error. And speaking in the post-sprint press conference, he addressed what more he needs to get out of himself to beat Verstappen on a more regular basis.

Lando Norris Max Verstappen

"As a race car, we are still missing a tiny bit but that's not my excuse," said Norris.

"For today, [it was] nothing more than Turn 4. If I just defended and didn't leave the door open, a different story would have happened.

“That might have been just one corner and Max could have overtaken me again next lap.

"So there's nothing in particular. I'm not feeling great and still there's little opportunities that I feel like I just miss out on and in hindsight, I think 'wow, how stupid was I to do some of the things that I've done?'.

“But at the same time, I'm doing the best I can when I'm on the track. So I don't necessarily think of what people are thinking on the outside. I know I've done things that aren't good enough and things that aren't at the level that they need to be and I'm doing my best to improve on them."

Inevitably, Norris is focusing on the increasingly small negatives in his and McLaren's game, and this sustained spell of fighting at the front will play a key role in sharpening his already-prodigious skills.

This mistake is a valuable lesson, one that he must learn from if he’s to make good on his enormous potential and become a world champion in the future. After all, in a close title fight, that kind of misjudgement could mean a significant points swing against Norris were it to happen in a full-points race.  

The good news for Norris is he learns fast, and he has the chance to put that learning into practice in Sunday’s grand prix.

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